Read The James Version by Ruth Dugdall Online


A fictionalised account of true events which shocked nineteenth century Britain. The story of 'The Murder in the Red Barn', this book describes the events through the eyes of Ann Marten, a woman suffering guilt and despair following the terrible history of her family, as she tells her tale to a reluctant young rector. James Coyte has taken up his called in Suffolk, but sinA fictionalised account of true events which shocked nineteenth century Britain. The story of 'The Murder in the Red Barn', this book describes the events through the eyes of Ann Marten, a woman suffering guilt and despair following the terrible history of her family, as she tells her tale to a reluctant young rector. James Coyte has taken up his called in Suffolk, but sinks into his own despair as Ann's story unfolds....

Title : The James Version
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781904529569
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 252 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The James Version Reviews

  • Gary
    2018-09-18 15:14

    I know there a lot of crime fans out there: if you haven’t discovered Ruth Dugdall yet, get your skates on! This is the first of Ruth’s books I have read and, having met her once over a coffee, I really wanted to like it. I need not have had any concerns – I loved it.The story is set in 1851 and despite one or two lapses into modern parlance Ruth has written it using Victorian terms of phrase, which suits the story very well, helps to set the scene and remind us that people were different then. This is a clever use of language and added to my enjoyment of the book.The story itself begins gently enough: a well-educated and newly qualified young man, Rector James Coyte, accepts as his first parish a post in the tiny village community of Polstead, near Hadleigh, in rural Suffolk. He does not really want to be there, having gone to Cambridge and being from a well-to-do family from Ely, Cambs. He feels he is somewhat superior to the villagers and looks forward to the day when the bishop will offer him a position in a large town or city, as he craves more life than a quiet village can offer. In the meantime he is the new boy and has to take what he is offered.James is soon approached by a local woman of 55, Ann Marten, who is ill and believes she will die quite soon. She has a strong desire to meet with him; she has a need to unburden her soul to this new religious leader in the village. She is troubled, unhappy and plagued by horrible dreams, which she intimates to James is because of her part in events that happened twenty-four years before, when her step-daughter was murdered and she, Ann, became a key witness in the subsequent murder trial, which led to the hanging of the murderer.In fact the Red Barn Murder was real and put Polstead on the map, as well as being the talk of the country at the time. Ruth Dugdall has taken this real murder and woven her own story around it, which is fascinating, particularly as she has done such a great job.Back to the story: James is intrigued by Mrs Marten’s desire to speak to him alone and the possibilities for himself this might present. His ambition is stronger than his religious faith, he having gone into the Church because his father wished it rather than because he had any spiritual feeling. He can see in Ann Marten a way of furthering his career; if he can minister to her and calm her troubled soul, or even throw more light on what had happened to the murder victim, it might be publicly recognised that he has done a good job and if it comes to the attention of the bishop he might be offered a superior parish elsewhere. James does not want to remain in Polstead for a minute longer than necessary, so agrees to meet with Mrs Marten regularly so that she may tell him her story.The book is written as a series of entries in James’ journal, in which he records his deepest feelings about what Mrs Marten tells him, his career, friend Peter and what he thinks about his new parishioners and their relationships, as he discovers them. This is interspersed with Ann Marten’s testimony at their meetings, which are very direct. This style of writing reminds me of Dracula, which was written as a series of letters and journal entries. I liked this way of presenting the story as it fitted well with the Victorian (and pre-Victorian) setting and it added to the flavour of the book.There is a sub-plot which comes back later in the book, which is James’ relationship with his friend, Peter, a newly-qualified doctor working in a lunatic asylum. They write to each other and Peter encourages James to delve into the murder and particularly into Mrs Marten’s mind, as he is fascinated by the ‘new’ sciences of phrenology and psychology.One element of the story that rings true but is alien to us is the way all the men in the story treat women and, more importantly, how they think of women. The men almost invariably consider women to be not only over-emotional but scheming and plotting, often to entrap them.This is presumably because women in the early decades of the 19th Century (and through most of history) had no power, no direct influence over their own or the world’s affairs and, after marriage, no property: they were at the mercy of their menfolk. It is no wonder, then, that women exerted what influence they could wield in the background, through giving their menfolk their views in private, emotional manipulation / blackmail and using love, sex and pregnancy (which no-one could control except through abstinence, of course) to get what they wanted, which was often just a husband who would love them or keep them in a style good enough that they did not have to slave away at manual chores and bringing up children their whole lives.Interestingly, the men in the story also see a lot of women as temptresses and harlots, and their own sexual desires as a reaction to temptation, thus relieving themselves of any guilt over lustful thoughts or deeds – even to the extent that women deserve what they get if they ‘lead a man astray’. I think this view has persisted in a watered down form almost to our own day – the treatment of women in some rape trials in recent decades being an example. In this Victorian setting, its raw and more powerful phase, however, it is grotesque and arrogant beyond belief.As the story unfolds James’ life becomes more complicated, as he meets more parishioners and his life begins to echo some of the events of the past – and he discovers more of the village’s secrets. Before long he learns more about people, human frailty and his own faults and weaknesses, which could make him a better man and a better rector, if things go to plan.I will not reveal more of the plot. The book is not very long but Ruth’s descriptive power is such that she gives you enough to get a really good idea of the protagonists’ characters and their feelings without it being over-wordy, which is a skill. The main reason this is such a good book, however, is that Ruth clearly knows human nature and this comes across on every page. The story could be set in any era, as we all recognise good and bad traits in human thought and behaviour, themes that are central to the telling of a good story. Ruth’s years as a probation officer were clearly spent watching, listening and studying her charges … I hope I didn’t give anything away over that coffee.Five stars, no question.

  • Teresa
    2018-09-10 16:15

    I really enjoyed Ruth Dugdall's psychological thriller The Sacrificial Man so I was intrigued by the concept of The James Version, a fictionalised account dealing with the Murder in the Red Barn, an early 19th century murder which captured the imagination of the British public.In 1827, a young woman, Maria Marten, was shot dead by her lover, William Corder. Maria's family thought she had eloped with Corder but her body was discovered buried in the nearby Red Barn almost a year later when her stepmother, Ann Marten, said she had dreams indicating the location of Maria. To modern eyes, it seems ridiculous that Ann was not considered a suspect at the time but Ruth Dugdall weaves a compelling tale about what might really have happened.The James Version is set in Polstead 24 years after Maria's murder and it is narrated by James Coyte who arrives at this desolate location to assume his new post as the local Rector. The locals are not particularly friendly but Ann Marten wants James to transcribe her account of the events surrounding Maria's murder. James has good intentions but he just doesn't seem well suited to the life of a Rector and ....let's just say, it doesn't bode well!The novel has a menacing tone throughout, enhanced by the isolation of the setting and the lack of likeable characters - they all seem to be extremely self-serving, especially the supposedly more religious locals... As Ann's story unfolds, the Rector sinks lower and lower, becoming dependent on alcohol and laudanum.I thoroughly enjoyed this gripping tale of intrigue and dastardly deeds, brimming with atmosphere and ideal for cold Winter nights.

  • Ruth Dugdall
    2018-09-19 11:11

    'The airless cottage stifles me, and I cannot breathe. The glass reveals another world, but it entombs me. I am captive, but I have seen the outside. It is November 1826 and I am thrity-one years old... There is a storm brewing.'New Year 1851 Rector James Coyte arrives at his bleak Suffolk destination. Full of apprehension, he expects his first post to be provincial and unchallenging. But Polstead is a village with a secret: A young woman murdered in a frenzied attack, then buried in a shallow grave in The Red Barn. She was just twenty-seven and only six weeks earlier had birthed an illegitimate baby. Based on true events which shocked nineteenth century Britain, The James Version is set in 1851 when Ann Marten, nearing the end of her life, reveals the story to the novice Rector. Through their meetings the truth of the murder is gradually uncovered to its shocking climax.

  • Maggie
    2018-09-17 14:17

    I live in the same town as Ruth Dugdall and had been meaning to read this. Having been to Polstead last week and walked past Maria's cottage, William's farmhouse, the pond, the church,the vicarage and the site of the red barn,I was already fascinated with the tale of the murder. Ruth did not disappoint. I thought the fiction based around the facts was brilliant and I couldnt put it down:)

  • M.L. Jacobs
    2018-09-10 08:10

    I've had this book on my shelves a few years and SO glad I finally got round to reading it. It is beautifully written and a great plot, based on a real-life Suffolk murder. I have recommended this to my friends and will definitely read it again.

  • Elizabeth (Merely Reading)
    2018-09-14 14:08

    Most people have heard of the story of Maria Marten or The Murder at The Red Barn. It was one of those famous or perhaps notorious murder cases that captured the public's imagination in the early 1800s. It appeals to the taste for melodrama.This novel is the author's interpretation of events, as told by two narrators - Ann Marten, stepmother of Maria, who is now an old lady and terminally ill, and the new Rector of Polstead James Coyte. Ann has approached the Rector to ask him to take a written testimony from her of her involvement in the events leading to her stepdaughter's death. Intertwined with this is the Rector's own story, which is every bit as involved as Ann's. How much we can rely on their testimonies we can't really know, hence the title The James Version. Ann is tormented by her secrets she has held for many years and how much responsibility she feels towards the events at The Red Barn. The Rector is struggling to cope with his first appointment to a village where he feels very much the outsider and very unwelcome. He is treated with suspicion and hostility by most of his parishioners. He is lonely and grieving the death of his brother in circumstances he has had to keep hidden from his mother for fear of causing her too much distress. He seeks solace in laudanum supplied by a doctor friend and quickly becomes dependent. He also starts drinking too much and becomes involved in a illicit affair with a married woman. He is playing with fire and doesn't seem to realise or care.It did take me a good few chapters to get into the story but, once I did, I was gripped. It's a slow burner, and well written, but I did find the ending perhaps just a little weak - I would have preferred it to end at the denouement and not then have the final event and dilemma which almost makes it possible to do a complete u-turn.

  • Cleo Bannister
    2018-08-29 07:51

    Ruth Dugdall has come up with something special with The James Version; taking a historical murder and bringing it to life with fictional characters.James Coyte is the new rector in Polstead when he is visited by Ann Marten. More than twenty years previously she tells him she had vivid dreams which led to the discovery of her Step-Daughter's body. James writes down all the information she tells him surrounding the murder which resulted in a local man hanging for the crime. James comes across as a strange young man and Ann Marten's story is intertwined with his own difficulties in settling into his role. An unsettling dark murder that could so easily be the true version of eventsIf you enjoyed The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: or the Murder at Road Hill House try this one.

  • Mandy
    2018-09-11 10:11

    I enjoyed this, it was very well written, and I read it rather quickly. I have to say, I disliked each and every character immensely, and yet this did not detract from my enjoyment of the story.This is the second Ruth Dugdall book that I have written and I have taken the third one out of the library.

  • D.S. Nelson
    2018-09-20 10:50

    An new version of the Red Barn Murder and a tale where the future echoes the past. Ruth Dugdall's fictitious explanation of this gruesome tale weaves a web of deceit that lies at the heart of Polstead.It's a little long-winded in parts but cleverly done and an interesting take on a case that gripped a nation for many decades.

  • Kylie van den Akker
    2018-09-01 14:58

    I really enjoyed this book. The story & characters were engaging, and the writing was lovely. Another book to read slowly, and to savour every page.

  • Marie Clifton
    2018-09-24 09:52